Caltech scientists have officially announced the possibility of a Neptune-sized, Trans-Neptunian Object orbiting our Sun, at the far edge of our Solar System.
The announcement was made, although the object has not yet been located. This, after NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) was launched in December 2009, with one of its purposes being to find a theoretical brown dwarf twin to our Sun in the same area being proposed now. Moreover, a brown dwarf could be of a similar size to the gassy “ice giant” being proposed now.
However, to date, WISE has officially located 6 brown dwarfs within 20 light-years of Earth – none of them in our Solar System – and no gassy ice-giants, either.
The difference between the newly-proposed “Planet 9” and the one proposed in the past is that this new one would be orbiting around the Sun in a highly-elliptical fashion, as opposed to in a highly-elliptical binary orbit with the Sun.
For decades, several tenured scientists at universities all over the place have observed perturbations in the Oort Cloud, the shell of cometary bodies which surrounds our Solar System. The perturbations were such that many predicted the existence of a brown dwarf substar in a binary orbit with our Sun. The proposed object was considered to be very difficult to detect because it would emit no photons and could have a temperature as low as that of a human body (approximately 300 Kelvin).
Of note is that the proposed object of the past has been repeatedly linked by scientists with a 26 million-year pattern of Extinction Level Events on Earth.
In general, the scientific community shuns catastrophism and promotes gradualism so the new “lite” approach by Caltech’s Dr. Michael Brown and his student, Konstantin Batygin may draw more support from the research community than similar past predictions, which were associated with serial apocalypses.
Professor Richard Muller at UC Berkeley, Dr. Daniel Whitmire from the University of Louisiana and Dr. Michael Rampino at New York University, among several others, have long speculated on the possibility that our Sun might have an as-yet undiscovered small companion with a highly elliptical orbit.
A major series of studies of the fossil record by University of Chicago’s David Raup and Jack Sepkoski showed that the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction caused by the Chicxulub impact, widely believed to have extinguished the dinosaurs was not an isolated event, but one of several mass extinctions that appear to occur in a regular cycle of 26-30 million years.
In 1983, Dr. Luis Alvarez urged his student Richard Muller to come up with a theory to explain the findings of Raup and Sepkoski, leading Muller to formulate the “Nemesis Theory”, that a brown dwarf companion to our Sun makes its closest approach to the edge of of our Solar System every 26 million years, knocking the comets in the Oort Cloud off course and sending them in our direction, accounting for the regular intervals of mass extinctions on Earth, every 26 million years.
In 1998, NYU’s Dr. Michael Rampino proposed “The Shiva Hypothesis: Impacts, Mass Extinctions and the Galaxy,” also based on the data aggregation of University of Chicago paleontologists, Dave Raup and Jack Sepkoski and the name for which was suggested by the late great Harvard professor, Stephen Jay Gould.
Presented as a “unifying concept for Earth sciences,” Michael Rampino, the longtime director of NYU’s Earth & Environmental Science Program, in collaboration with NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, proposed that every 26 to 30 million years, as the Solar System orbits around the Milky Way Galaxy, it passes through a region packed with stars and clouds of interstellar gas and dust. Rampino referred to the work of astrophysicist John J. Matese, Daniel Whitmire and their colleagues at LSU, stating that their work had confirmed that “…the alignment of just our Sun with the Galactic Center would cause enough pull on the combined mass of material in the Galactic Disk to attract a hail of comets during our our Solar System’s passage through the central Galactic plane, as it bobs up and down during its rotation through the dense, central portion of the Galaxy…Like Shiva, the Hindu Destroyer/Creator, the cyclic impacts bring an end to one world and allow the beginning of a new one. With the Chicxulub impact 65 million years ago, the Mesozoic world, populated by giant dinosaurs and flying reptiles, gave way to the modern world of mammals and birds.”
In 1999, Whitmire was co-author with John J. Matese et al. of the peer-reviewed paper, “Cometary Evidence of a Massive Body in the Outer Oort Cloud”, which notes the anomalous distribution and behaviors of comets at the edge of our Solar System and predicts a brown dwarf “perturber” at a distance from Earth of approximately 25,000 AU (Astronomical Units), which, “acting in concert with the galactic tide” is causing certain comets to be more easily observable from Earth. On his website, Whitmire opined that the “perturber” was a “T-dwarf,” which is a class of lower-mass, lower-temperature and lower-luminosity dwarfs than a classic brown dwarf, with the coolest one measured so far at around 700º K or 240º F, just a little bit hotter than a pot of boiling water at sea level. Y-Dwarfs can be even cooler – and young ones can be smaller than Jupiter, just like the newly-proposed, Neptune-sized object.
With the 2003 discovery of the Trans-Neptunian Object, Sedna, a small planet-like object at the edge of the Solar System, which was first detected by the same Caltech astronomer, Dr. Michael Brown, Walter Cruttenden of the Binary Research Institute proposed that this might provide indirect physical evidence of a solar companion.
Matching the findings of Dr. Brown, showing that Sedna moves in a highly unusual and elliptical orbit, Cruttenden determined that Sedna moves in resonance with previously published orbital data for a hypothetical companion star. However, the scientific community currently classes Sedna as a dwarf planet, akin to Pluto, due to its size and the spectral analysis of its composition, which shows that it’s a rocky planetoid, rather than a gassy substar.
The newly-proposed “Planet 9” by Caltech’s assistant professor Konstantin Batygin along with Professor Michael Brown is based on new research that provides evidence of a giant planet which traces a weird, highly elongated orbit in the Outer Solar System, which the two astronomers discuss here, in this clip.